Sunday, January 14, 2007

More on Translations

In the comments of my last post, reader 5 red brought up one of my favorite writers:

This talk of translation also brings to the fore the nagging question I have when I read Murakami's work. I can't help wondering what his work is like in Japanese. I've convinced myself that it's even better, and I feel like I'm missing out.

I've often wondered the same thing about other writers, but I don't worry too much about it in Haruki Murakami's case. The reason is that he's a very rare beast among writers who don't ordinarily write in English: he is both 1) completely fluent in English, and 2) popular enough so that all his books are translated into English during his lifetime. He also has a couple of translators he knows well and whom he can work with...thus, his translations have a certain "official" status, at least in my mind, as he gets to vet them, and can actually appreciate the way they "feel" in English.

I wish I could remember where I found this, but I remember reading a short essay or interview with Murakami in which discussed his English translations and his feelings toward them. If I remember right, he liked them, but appreciated that they had a different flavor. If anyone knows what I'm talking about, let us know.

On a side note, I got a real laugh when flipping through the Spanish edition of one of my own the English, the character refers to someone having real "cojones," and in the translation there's a footnote reading, "In Spanish in the original."

1 comment:

5 Red Pandas said...

A ha! I wasn't sure how fluent Murakami was in English, so this puts my mind more at ease. This fact reminds me that he makes far more Western pop culture references in his work than he does to Japanese pop culture. I learn more about classical music when I read his books than when I read American authors.

Thanks for clarifying.